Monday, May 22, 2006

God's country

Crap. Well, this was the best I could do considering I was going about 60 mph when I tried taking this (oops, Mom, don't read that part). Anyway, what you can't really make out here, through my wildlife-splattered windshield, is a bumper sticker on the back of that truck that seriously says, "Viva Bush." Yep. Viva. Bush.

Water officials here have shared their frustration with me over the county's politics. There probably aren't many other places on earth which have been hurt so badly by pro-growth, pro-development policies that put the almight dollar first, and yet this area remains Republican owned-and-run. Only 5% of the county votes, and they're the 5% who happen to be white and conservative (and it is true that most white folks here are conservative). A large proportion of people here are illegal, according to everyone I've talked to -- not so much in
Calexico, but further north where the Border Patrol isn't quite so visible. Still, you see empty cars strewn up and down the highways here, signs that la migra pulled over a car full of migrants on its way to safer ground.

The majority of elected officials live in San Diego and other areas out of the county; this is changing slowly, but not fast enough to alter the political terrain before the Salton Sea dries up and blows down the valley.

I'm really disappointed, by the way, that you can't see how much dirt is on my car right now. I'll have to take a picture from the right angle so you can see the full speckling on the exterior. I'm not sure what's gotten into me, but there's something addicting about rolling around in the dirt. It helps that this car isn't much bigger than my Jetta, which makes it easy to spin around offroad.

At the same time, Calexico is a happening place. On Saturday, I went to the 15th Annual Mariachi sin Fronteras festival, which brought in famous mariachi acts from around Latin America. My two favorites? Los Reyes del Valle and Mariachi Divas. I'd highly recommend checking out either, even if you don't like mariachi -- I hadn't realized how diverse the contemporary sound could be. This very blurred photo is of Mariachi Divas. I had to shoot it from about 1000 feet away, through a fence and without a you get what you can at that point, especially when you're working with a mediocre digital camera. Anyway, they were a fantastic group. Gotta go get some CDs before I leave...but that requires another trip to the g-d Walmart, and I'm trying to avoid that. I'm actually running low on food, but I refuse to go back there again, and I've taken to shopping at the highly questionable dollar (peso) grocery store in town. I've also developed a strong predilection for sangria, which I blame entirely on that store, as it sells the stuff at a ridiculously low price.

The festival drew people from all over Imperial County, the Mexicali Valley, southern California and Baja California, Mexico. I was outside the actual event, sitting with a lot of families and couples in the section for people who were too cheap (or too confused) to buy tickets, and the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed. Lots of kids kicking soccerballs around, friends passing beers, overly eager young security guys pacing the perimeter like they expected us to dash across en masse...then again, we are on the border, so maybe they're just jumpy...

Back to work for me (not really, but I'm trying). Tomorrow, I get to interview Mexican water officials en espaƱol, which should be fantastic since my Spanish isn't good enough to discuss policy. Add in the fact that my guide only speaks Spanish, AND the officials are probably guarded already because of a recent international incident involving an LA television crew, and you're pretty much guaranteed an interesting evening. Wish me luck. If I wind up in jail, send sangria.


Anonymous said...

Oh Meg,

It sounds like your trip has been fantastic, if completely frustrating at times. And with the way that area looks, I'm betting you'll have more than enough information for your paper. A dead horse in the river?! And the scary thing is that it probably died on someone's farm and they didn't want to dispose of it so they just stuck it in the back of a pickup and dumped it in the river!

I'm in NY now, and I've been at my job for a week. Yesterday I was at work from 8:45am until 10pm. Gotta love the hours. But that's nothing compared to Peter's 8:30am-11pm Friday stretch, 8:30am-midnight Saturday haul, and 8:30am-noon marathon this past weekend. I'm still not sure what I think about all of this, but at least most of the people I work with are really nice.

I'll write you a longer email later, but I just wanted to say hi and let you know I'm glad your research seems to be going well!

Your Stanford/NY bud

Anonymous said...

I echo the Lawyer's comments. These last few posts have been amazing, Meggers! You do a good job at breaking down the intersecting complex issue of poverty, race/ethnicity, border politics, economics, "historical" background, and enviornmental problems. And the writing is splendid on giving the feel of the local place. I felt like I was reading one of those national geographic zip code pieces. I'll try to call some time before I leave the country. Best of luck on the thesis, and see you in Seattle at Christmas!

-berkeley girl